This week I had the pleasure of interviewing the younger sister of a classmate who I have become friends with since beginning my language course here in Heidelberg. It took a considerable amount of time to find someone who would be suitable for the interview, but her older brother Thomas (Tom) agreed to introduce me and serve as a translator if needed (which he was). Her name is Karolin Weber, and she is a 19 year old at the tail end of her studies at Gymnasium, preparing for the extremely important Abitur exam which is just over the horizon. She speaks english quite well, but I insisted that she let me conduct the interview in German for the sake of authenticity.
The english translation of our interview is as follows:
Which school do you attend?
I study at the Kurfürst-Friedrich-Gymnasium. We call it KFG for short.
Is that close by?
Yes it’s here in Heidelberg near Bismarckplatz.
How long have you been studying there?
8 years. I entered the school when I was 11 years old, and now I now I am nearly finished.
So you’re 19 years old?
Yes. I turn 20 in November.
How long is your average day at school?
My classes start at 08:00 (8:00 am) and end between 16:00 and 17:00 (4:00 pm – 5:00 pm)
Is it hard to believe that you are almost finished with Gymnasium?
No, not really. It has gone very fast, but very slow too. I am definitely ready to move on to University.
What are you studying now, and what would you like to study in University?
I’m studying engineering, and will do the same in University. I want to be a mechanical engineer.
It has always fascinated me, and my father was an engineer. It seems like a good profession which will be useful and practical in the future.
Are you nervous for the Abitur?
I used to be very nervous about it, but now I am just ready to get it over with so I can move on.
What are the teachers like in your school?
Most of my teachers are nice people, but some are very intense. I used to be scared of a male teacher who would yell at students when they goofed around.
Outside of school, how do you like to spend your time? Do you have any hobbies?
I really like to travel in Europe. I have friends in many of the countries around Germany, and I like to visit them when I have time. I like to make music with my friends a lot.
You play music? Any specific instrument or genre?
Yes I play the acoustic guitar and some keyboard. I like to play folk-style music and also electronic.
Are those the genres that you like to listen to as well? What are some of your favorite bands or musicians?
I like to listen to many different genres. Some of my favorite musicians are Ed Sheeran, Bob Dylan, Tiësto, Radiohead, and Drake.
Wow, that’s quite the variety of music taste. No German bands or musicians?
No not really. Most of my favorite artists are from the U.S. and Canada.
I’ve noticed that many Germans listen to music from North America. Why do you think that is?
I don’t know. I don’t think there are a lot of great modern German musicians for some reason. If you like classical music, we have a lot to offer, but that’s not really what I enjoy.
Do you like to watch or play any sports?
I like to watch people play tennis sometimes, but I think football (soccer) is my favorite. I go to a lot of matches in Stuttgart with my friends.
What is your family history?
My father moved to Germany from Brazil when he was 24 years old, and met my mother a few years later. She was born and raised in Mannheim. My dad speaks fluent Spanish and German, and my mom can speak English very well.
So you’re half Brazilian, half German? Have you ever had the chance to visit Brazil or anywhere in South America?
Yes and yes. When I was 12, we took a family vacation to Rio de Janeiro. It was amazing there. I remember it was very hot and the food was amazing. The beaches there were beautiful.
How many languages do you speak?
I can speak German, French and Spanish fluently, and my English is getting pretty good.
I’ve noticed that Europeans tend to speak several languages, especially in The Netherlands where many people spoke Dutch, English, German, and French. Americans tend to stick with English. Why do you think that is?
I think there are many reasons. Here in Germany, we are so close to other countries which often speak different languages, so it is important to understand how to communicate when not in your home country. Americans don’t really need to know more than English, except maybe Spanish.
Do you think that it’s valuable to learn other languages?
Yes of course. Every new language that you learn opens up a new way of seeing the world. Being able to communicate with people from other countries in their language is really helpful. I wouldn’t enjoy traveling to France as much if my French wasn’t so good.
Switching topics, what are some of your favorite German foods?
I really like käsespätzle even though it’s not very good for you. I’ve liked it since I was a kid. I like bratwurst too, although not as much as the rest of my family.
Do you like sauerkraut?
No! I don’t understand the love behind sauerkraut! It is rather sacrilegious to say this as a German, but I don’t care. I don’t like the flavor.
What about pretzels?
Pretzels are delicious. I could eat them every day, but I shouldn’t.
Do you have any favorite films or television shows?
I really like T.V. shows, but I’m not very into film. Some of my favorite shows are Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Family Guy, and Hannibal. I like to watch them in English with German or Spanish subtitles to help learn the language.
Does that strategy work?
Yes! You learn without really having to think.
I notice a lot of tourists from all over the world in the Altstadt. What are some stereotypes of Americans?
I think that Americans tend to be loud and outspoken. They aren’t afraid to say exactly what they want, and like to ask things like “how are you doing?” to complete strangers.
Have you ever been to the United States?
I was in the New York once when I was young. I don’t really remember it though.
Would you like to go back some day?
Yes absolutely. I really want to see Los Angeles and the Grand Canyon. I want to try American Barbecue.
Anything you want to say to the German class who will be reading this?
Come to Germany if you get the chance! We’re quite nice here, despite the stereotypes about Germans. I hope you enjoy learning the language and can put it to use in the future.
Talking to Karolin was an absolute blast, and it was very interesting to learn the perspective of a younger student who has lived here her whole life. I was very glad to have Tom with us, as he helped clear things up when Karolin and I got stuck. The translation in this transcript was done with the help of Tom and Karolin to ensure that I wrote exactly what she meant to say.